Doctor with the Red Houseware – Update

Official Poster for Doctor with the Red Houseware

I’m beyond thrilled to announce Doctor with the Red Houseware – the short film I wrote and directed – has been selected by “Xumo” with the opportunity to reach televisions worldwide. Xumo is a streaming service that is readily available across a variety of devices. If you have a Samsung TV and no cable, it is more than likely the host of television channels that will start playing automatically once you exit Netflix. Though it has been selected, I will celebrate with much more alcohol when it is officially featured and available for viewing.

Xumo is a free streaming service with thousands of movies and over 190 channels of streaming content. It is available in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain, Brazil, and Mexico.

I find myself overwhelmed by time. I work 12 hour shifts 3-4 days per week. I have one day off per week with my girlfriend where we watch movies and order pizza. When I am not working I am creating something. Currently I am developing a song that I love.

I have never looked for a job in the film industry but have decided to begin my search following completion of this song. Spending so much time at a job that is unrelated to my areas of interests seems misguided and wasteful. I would love nothing more than to begin work on a feature length script, yet I feel burdened by worry that such an undertaking will be wasteful. If I take the time to write a script I will make damn sure it gets produced. In order to produce a feature length script I am dependent on money that is not in my possession.

The benefits of working in the industry would be numerous as would the drawbacks. For one, I anticipate regular pay for consistent work is difficult to come by. I feel that working as a sound engineer or mixer could perhaps be the most promising, despite my first love of writing. I am concerned jobs of that sort require a degree in the audio production as they deal with the most technical & mathematical aspects of filmmaking. For instance, mixing for a theatrical release requires much more specific sound assignments then a 2.0 stereo mix. I am confident I can mix in surround but until I have a setup at my disposal I cannot prove that.

These are just some of my thoughts as I am, as always, pressed for time. Today I will work further on the song, tomorrow I will see my girlfriend, and the following day it’s back to work. Happy Easter and God Bless.

Walking Faster

Part of my research into filmmaking financing and distribution has educated me on the ideal expenses of a legitimate production. Jeff Deverett, an experienced filmmaker with a background in distribution, suggested that the marketing for a film should equal 60-100% of the overall budget. This is a much greater percentage than I ever would have guessed. Other estimates give marketing a much smaller figure. Given Deverett’s experience and knowledge of the film market, I trust his opinion more.

I don’t, however, have the income to match my marketing expenses with the budget my short film costs to produce. Working on such a small scale means that I’m already only spending a buck when it’s absolutely necessary. Though I may not be able to match that percentage financially, I may be able to compete when it comes to time and effort.

I’ve been putting in work this week to research topics that are discussed in my short film. That’s why you’ve seen posts about Alaister Crowley, Uri Gellar, and the Ganzfeld experiment. In truth, I’ve greatly enjoyed the research. I would like to further my understanding of parapsychological history to create short documentaries for my youtube channel. My theory is that this will attract an audience for the subject matter my film contains.

I plan to launch my kickstarter campaign in January. I was hoping to submit the campaign for review already, but I recently concluded Episode 5 could really use a series recap that covers the major events in episodes 1-4. I’ve been editing that video the past 2 days.

Move fast and break things.

That’s the premise of the marketing plan I would like to implement. It essentially suggests “throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.” I don’t think I could ever publish writings or videos that I am not proud of – but I did spend 2 hours yesterday remastering 1 scene of dialogue from Episode 4. All those changes make a difference, but there will be a music track playing over that conversation during the series recap anyway.

I’ve got to improve at time management. By setting aside 30 minutes a day to simply publish updates across social media platforms I feel I may begin to reach a more sizable audience. Pissing away time hunched behind a computer screen tweaking the velocity an animated arm moves at is a comparatively wasteful undertaking.

I plan to release 5 “behind the scenes” videos from the making of Mountain Cult in January and 3 short documentaries. I’ve wasted so much time figuring out how to move ‘X’ just to get started on ‘Y’ it’s embarrassing. I’ve got to accept the pangs of building a youtube audience – despite having no desire to be a fucking youtuber. I don’t think many people do. But by building an audience there I can make great strides towards securing finance and distribution for the types of movies I do want to make.

If you haven’t seen the trailer for my upcoming short film, feel free to check it out below.

The Fun Part

After completing the final day of filming last week, I’ve finally had a chance to edit the material. I’ve completed the first crucial step, which is to assemble the best clips together in the timeline. When I made the first episode last year that was pretty much my only step, and then I added a “color grade”. I put that in quotations because I have a few shots in episode 1 that are completely blue because I couldn’t figure out how to change them back to a normal color. Also, I’m pretty sure the entire episode still only plays out of the left speaker.

At this point there are many steps, but each one becomes more rewarding than the last. I get to see my shots come to life as the saturation increases and the skin tones increase in warmth. The audio transforms from an uncontrolled mess of garbled rumbles into a valley of emphasized pitches. And adding music to any scene is like adding alcohol to a romantic situation – it’s not necessary but it sure gets things moving.

I’ve divided the episode into 5 major sequences based on the day the scene was shot. There are subsequences within those days as well. One of the major challenges during Episode 4 – which had a run time of 22 minutes – was the processing burden it placed on my computer during the edit. The file size becomes massive when you have hundreds of 2-3 seconds clips that feature a colorgrade, audio effects, and a mask or two. Sometimes it becomes necessary to stack video clips atop each other which multiplies the amount of information premiere pro has to remember.

Once I complete the edit for each 4-6 minute sequence, I will export the scene and load it into ableton live. Here I can compose the background music so that it is in sync with the scene. I can also add some reverb and eq to the scene, but so far I’ve found premiere pro is better suited for dialogue and general film editing. Once I have the song composed and leveled I will export each instrument to a different stem and work with the scene back in premiere pro. After I have the audio mixed and completed I will begin work on the colors.

I don’t want to get as in depth with the coloring as I did the last episode. One of the major challenges of working with a small budget is that I am unable to apply wallpaper or paint many of the walls that I am shooting in front of. The reason why this matters is that the white walls in any home take on a soft orange hue from sunlight. A simple method way of enhancing the skin tones of your actors is to have them contrast with their background.

Transformers – Michael Bay

Orange and teal are known as complimentary colors as they are on opposite sides of the color wheel. When the background is teal and skin tone is orange, it looks good. I mention the walls because whenever background objects are the same tone as the actors’ skin it becomes more difficult to accentuate that contrast. You can still do it with a mask, or by using the rotobrush in after effects, but that results in more layers of video – which puts more stress on your processor.

If I had a real budget for a legitimate production, I could control the set and design the background for the ideal color balance. If color schemes in film interests you, I encourage you to watch a Wes Anderson film. He is the master of artistic framing and balance, in my opinion. If you want to see a heavy orange and teal effect, watch a Michael Bay Film.

Wes Anderson

I know this has been a technical heavy post that was essentially written for noone, but that’s where my mind is at. Perhaps you can see why I retain my stubborn belief that marketing and creativity are born from diametrically opposed regions of the brain. Ideally I could do both at the same time, but I have always felt I am only capable of thinking one way or another.

It’s wild how much I have learned over the past year about the technical aspects of filmmaking. The irony is that I’ve become faster at each part of the process but the amount of steps before completion feels as though it is infinite. One final ramble I have to get out is that I never can make up my mind about whether to mix this film in 5.1 surround sound. I feel that I am capable, but I would need to purchase Adobe Audition, a 5.1 sound card, and a set of surround sound speakers. Youtube does not support surround sound and neither do 95% of the viewers who will eventually be watching my short film. I have decided to purchase a DVD writer so that I can encode the finished product to a DVD and offer it as an incentive during my kickstarter campaign. In this digital age, however, I am more than certain that most supporters will prefer access to the file online. A lot of homes do not even feature a DVD player.

If you read to the end of this post, congratulations, I am certain you are one of the few. This entire post was comprised of godawful technobabble and the aimless ponderings of a man’s compulsive desire to speak the language of cinema. Enjoy the day and the lessons it teaches you.

MC – EP 5 & Sound Design

Some graphics I’ve been used for epoxy coffee mugs. Guess character is a murderer? Hint – I found a dead finch on my porch last week.

Well good morning.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on any form of social media. The truth is I’ve been busy filming Mountain Cult Ep 5 and in fact only have 1 scene left to shoot. Beside wordpress, I was making a habit of posting “film journals” to my youtube channel. Believe it or not I recorded a new episode of FJ about a month ago – I just haven’t gotten around to editing it.

As a matter of fact I have so much material I’m hoping to edit that it overwhelms me at times ( I want to remaster former episodes by fixing audio issues, send each actor from mountain cult a 1 minute clip for their acting reels, film a youtube “short” everyday, and – unrelated – but I’d also like to try my hand at singing to see if the vocals would improve the songs I’ve put together). The important thing is that I’ve edited much of Episode 5 already. However, it’s been a unique experience after learning so much about audio this year – I never thought that sound mixing would be more time consuming than coloring.

I’ll give you an example – imagine you film a scene on your porch where all that you’re doing is speaking on the phone to an offscreen character. Sounds simple, right? Well that all depends on how involved you’d like to get. If I were to go all out this is what I would do –

  1. A clean take with mic focused on character speaking
  2. A full minute recording of ambient noise with nothing else
  3. A full take that focuses only on the rustling cloth and movements of the character
  4. Focus the mic on any distinct sounds – phone placed on table, phone picked up
  5. Sound of the voice coming through the other end of the phone (an easy improvisation in post, but always sounds better when played in the actual environment)

I think those are enough pertinent tracks to make the scene. When I get to the editing room, I’ll isolate each sound on a separate track – ie, dialogue, sound effects, foley, background noise, special (like editing a normal voice to sound like its coming through a telephone… or cellphone since nobody uses the word telephone anymore)

So now each layer is on a separate track. From here I’ll place audio effects to each track – EQ, highpass filter, dehummer, deesser, and finally mastering. The less effects needed the better. Often Dialogue needs the most. (the better the recording, the less I have to do in the editing room).

Once the sounds are placed I’ll add cross fades and some quiet audio to the start and beginning of dialogue bits. This prevents those sharp, millisecond blips that you hear when an audio level changes dramatically in an instant.

After all the audio is placed, I would import the tracks into ableton. Here I can design a score that is specific to the scene I am editing. It is important during every step of the process to level your clips appropriately – dialogue should always be the loudest, most distinguishable track. I like loud, crisps sound effects (the phone being picked up and placed down). Foley, or the cloth movements, should fit the scene appropriately. In others words the common viewer should not even know that track exists. Ambient noise should also be at a low level, but consistently present. The music volume depends on how important it is to the scene. For something such as this I would keep it at a low volume. I might even sidechain it to dialogue so that it lowers in volume during each moment a character speaks.

After all this is finished, I would focus on panning – or speaker assignment for each layer. Dialogue will be front and center, but the other sounds and noises can be panned to the side speakers. Panning audio is something I still have a lot more to learn about. For example, I am uncertain if it is better to pan most sounds far left and far right, or to settle them closer to the center.

The cool thing about making my own score is that I can pan each instrument separately along the speakers. I am also unsure of where sound effects should be placed – I enjoy panning them according to the object creating them in relation to the visual scene.

My biggest question when it comes to panning is how it effects surround sound. I believe that exporting in 5.1 means that each track will go directly to the speaker it is assigned even if it is not panned. What I am curious about is whether a hard right/left pan makes any change to the speaker it is assigned to. 5.1, for those that don’t know, means that your audio set up includes 1 center speaker, a front left and right speaker, and rear left and right speaker, and 1 subwoofer that plays the low frequency waves (explosions are popular).

The final step for audio would involve leveling it once again. Where will the clip be posted? Youtube, broadcast television, and film festivals each have different leveling specifications. Youtube requires audio that is much louder than the other platforms. The other consideration for this is surround sound – cable and youtube will not support surround sound audio. I believe most film festivals will.

The other major concern for me has to do with kickstarter – I desperately want to offer episode 5 of mountain cult on a DVD. I want it to supply 4k video with surround sound. I’m sure it’s just a few web searches away, but I have some big questions before I can promise this. #1 – can basic DVD-R support 4k and surround sound? #2 – Do I need a special DVD writing drive, or is a simple CD Rom drive capable of writing these specs to a DVD? #3 – Do I export 2.1, 5.1, and 7.1/7.2 to the same disc? Or do I write the most advanced surround sound tracks to the DVD and allow the AV receiver to fold the surround sound according to the viewers audio setup? For example, you can upload a surround sound clip to youtube, but youtube will fold the rear left & rear right speakers so that it is incorporated into the stereo track and plays through front left and right speakers. I believe Youtube supports 2.1 audio, but I could be mistaken.

Anyways, thank you for listening to all this audio gibberish. Definitely not what I intended to write about when I sat down here but I’m glad I got it off my chest. I hope to begin posting stills from my footage soon I’m just too lazy to press the upload button now.

Accepting Imperfections

The day is Thursday and it’s time to move forward once again. I’ll get to planning my next shoot later today and rework 2 short scenes for a new location. I will be including my first chase scene which is always fun.

I have continued to post shorts on the youtube channel and feel that these may be one of the easiest ways to expand my audience and grow a following for mountain cult. My friend Brad came by yesterday and I was able to give him a Mountain Cult T-shirt with his face on the graphic. He had some ideas on how to improve the graphics but was appreciative nonetheless. During the 10 minutes kelly and her friend ran to the store, Brad and I filmed a short and uploaded it to youtube.

One core philosophy that I try to live by when it comes by all things creative is the acceptance of imperfection. It is wonderful for us hold our art to the highest of standards. We push hard through the process, from beginning to end, and refuse to take short cuts. At the end of the day, however, no project will see the light of day until you allow it to.

If you set out to write the greatest book ever written before you’ve published anything, you have a high likelihood on molding and rewriting and altering that same book for the rest of your life. Much like humans, no piece of art is ever going to be perfect. Just like those that we love, imperfection is part of the appeal.

I believe in a branding strategy that trust more in consistent production then spending all my time and energy into making one quality production and anticipating the audience will arrive at that time. People are apprehensive to accept something that is unfamiliar. Think about all the advertisements you see each day – we don’t run out and buy something the first time we hear about it. But as time passes and you’ve seen that same face 50 some odd times, you might actually give some to the product they are trying to sell you.

Anyways, in the spirit of generalized production, I figured I’d make this little post. It’s not much but it’s better than waiting until I feel I have perfect post to write.

The Big Shoot – 7-21-21

The date that I have been working toward all year has finally arrived and past. On Monday, July 19th, I finally got to film a scene that involved 4 other actors at a public location. The amount of preparation required to complete this scene is difficult even for me to comprehend:

  1. Location – I had to go door to door at small businesses and offer to shoot a promo video
  2. I had to shoot, edit, and submit the promo video
  3. I had rewrite the same scene approximately 30 times until it was ready to film
  4. Cast the actors
  5. design the props
  6. order costumes
  7. purchase table mats, candles, a small potted plant, a woven basket, rope, etc.
  8. Purchase an additional camera and microphone
  9. Find crew members available day of event
  10. Consistently respond & update actors and crew members involved in the shoot

The list goes way deeper than this, and I imagine I will talk about the preparation involved in the next film journal. The day of the shoot was Tuesday. I worked Saturday night, came home, and slept for 3 hours. From noon Sunday until the shoot completed at 8 pm Monday I did not sleep. Then I came home and parked in a tow-away zone and stayed awake until 5 am when a parking spot opened up in my apartment complex.

Now it is Wednesday. I have all my footage and audio stored on my computer. The proxies have been created and the media has been backed up on an external hard drive.

I am very excited to move forward. I am extremely pleased with how everything turned out, but will not have a complete response until I have begun editing. I will try and get some stills posted here soon. The rest of the film includes scenes that only require 1 additional actor and can be shot anywhere.

I should add that having a crew assist me on Monday helped things run smooth and more efficient than ever before. It was truly rewarding and a breath of relief to have competent individuals behind the cameras who you trust to frame a shot appropriately. It was also encouraging to work with people who enjoy every aspect of the filmmaking process as much as myself. In our every day lives, it is common to work with people who will never understand the passion and desire to produce art. To find myself surrounded by other artists was enough of a reward in itself to make all the work, expenses, and time that went into this day worth it all on its own.

T minus 1 week

Today is one of the most important of my filmmaking journey. I have 2 days off prior to the start of my work week so I need to be aggresive and feel prepared to film next week’s sequence prior to the end of those days. If I’ve learned anything throughout this process it is that preparation will make the difference between laughable nonsense and a decent looking production.

I have a major prop involved in the scene next week and wish to be done creating it today. The major feature of this prop is a circuit board. I decided to make a trip to the local thrift shop and I wasn’t disappointed – it’s not everyday you come across blueray DVD players for less than $10. It’s such a good deal that I actually purchased one for personal use.

So now I get to take it apart today. Once I’m done with that I’ve got to determine how I wish for the prop to appear. As long as it appears like a usable, albeit mysterious piece of functioning technology, it will pass the test.

The other major part of my prepartion includes making a shot list. More specifically, nailing down the angles I will use to feature a sequence that relies on digital editing and masks in order to produce a special effect in the final product.

This evening I will meet with the cast via zoom to discuss how the filming is going to be done next week. I can’t wait to get the meat of this project; but that doesn’t mean I’m not still nervous to actually get this critical task underway. We’ve got 10 pages to film (!) a week from now, so the preparation starts today.

Check out my latest episode of Film Journal and make sure to subscribe if you want to continue staying up to date with the short film’s developments.

Film and Early Marketing

We finally began production on Mountain Cult episode 5 this week. It’s obviously been a long time coming, so I’m thrilled to finally have completed a day of footage. From first glance everything looks and sounds great, but I won’t know for sure until I’ve had time to sit down and dig deep into the edits.

Too say I’ve been overburdened is an understatement. Our major film date is July 19th. In order to get everything in order, I’ve had to cast 4 actors, order necessary props and wardrobes, assemble a crew of 2-4 assistants, and order additional equipment. These expenses obviously add up, but I’ve done well to save throughout the year and have a proper expectation for how much the entire project will cost me.

I will launch a 30 day kickstarter campaign in August. My initial plan was to launch it in July, but after some thinking I feel it would be more wise to wait until I can give it my full attention. There is a good chance we will be filming for 1 more day in August, but that shoot requires much less preparation. I’ve set my target goal on Kickstarter for $3000. That will cover my budget along with the cost for the merchandise I plan on offering. I have learned how to apply graphics to T-shirts and coffee mugs -two items which I feel may incentivize willing investors.

Another major goal of mine is to release the film for an audience of 1000-10k on youtube. Episode 4 has amassed over 500 views. That’s really a pitiful number in the grand scope of youtube but getting random internet strangers to watch your short film certainly isn’t easy. I’ve come out with 5 episodes of film journal as of now and so far the experiment has proved embarrassing, waste of effort, and almost exactly what I anticipated. The key concept behind the “show” is to use it as a platform to discuss myself and my films – neither of which currently have any marketing attraction. My theory, however, is that by remaining consistent, entertaining, and informative, I will gradually develop an audience over time and that audience will look forward to the release of the film being routinely discussed.

I have been strongly considering releasing videos about various conspiracies because I feel that is my target audience for Mountain Cult. The major drawbacks for this direction are 1) In order to add value to the topic, I will have to do research and spend more time than I am willing and 2) Doing “reaction” type videos puts you in danger of copyright strikes, which could effect monetization down the road.

I have created a discord channel for the show as well as an instagram page for “TMW productions.” It is so funny to me that I’m learning all these social media platforms because I hate them so passionately. I already know I likely won’t utilize either of these two mediums but I do know that I should. I am so pressed for time as it is, but I am convinced that devoting 1 hour per day to marketing will make a bigger difference in viewership than simply pouring in more hours in the editing room.

On July 19th we will perform our big shoot. I must go into that day prepared beyond anything I have done before. I desperately seek to film 9 pages, which will definitely be a record for me if I accomplish it. I will survive if we need to return for a second day, though I will be greatly disappointed.

Anyways, I miss writing here and hope to do so more often in the near future.